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Old 12-31-2003, 02:39 PM   #1
duerra
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Linux, Corporations, and Propietary Software


Greetings,
Most major software running on Linux right now is Open Source software, that's free to download, compile, etc. However, this is obviously not the commercial way of doing things. While that's fine and dandy, it's seemed to cause some problems, at least for me. Maybe somebody here can help, and maybe not =P

I've was looking for a driver for my controller for a while, when I ran into the issue that I could find binary forms of the driver compiled for Red Hat, SuSE, and Caldera, but nothing else. This is rather frustrating, because I am running Slackware, which is still a major distribution - yet no driver was offered by the company for it. Even debian didn't have a compiled driver on the site (they seemed to be commercial Linux only). Here's where my questions and/or concerns lie.

Is it safe to use drivers in your distribution, even though they are labeled for a different distribution? If not, why not? And also if not, doesn't this present a major problem for Linux in terms of actually becoming a desktop solution to mainstream American? With hundreds of distributions+ out there, Linux cannot afford to have software that is not compatible between distributions in terms of corporate America. Obviously big companies aren't going to open up their source for users to compile on their own, and they surely can't compile their own binaries for every unique Linux distribution that comes along (ie - not based on other distros).

I mean, I can't even find what I'm looking for in compiled form labeled for Slackware! Fortunately, I was able to find the source for it so that I could compile it myself (though only after 2 weeks of searching for the damn thing).

Tips, hints, and advice are very welcome =)
 
Old 12-31-2003, 02:56 PM   #2
Mara
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Re: Linux, Corporations, and Propietary Software

Quote:
Originally posted by duerra

Is it safe to use drivers in your distribution, even though they are labeled for a different distribution? If not, why not? And also if not, doesn't this present a major problem for Linux in terms of actually becoming a desktop solution to mainstream American? With hundreds of distributions+ out there, Linux cannot afford to have software that is not compatible between distributions in terms of corporate America. Obviously big companies aren't going to open up their source for users to compile on their own, and they surely can't compile their own binaries for every unique Linux distribution that comes along (ie - not based on other distros).
The thing with driver is that they're loaded into the kernel and when something gets wrong, strange things may happen. But when a driver is 'strandard' (ie it's just a new driver, other files in the kernel are not changed), there's a big chance to make it working. Note that there's a way to make binary drivers for all distros in one package - example: NVidia drivers (in fact, the drivers are not 100% binary, but that's another story). There are problems with the drivers (from time to time), but the installation works. It can be done, but it requires the people making it to want it.

The same problem with normal programs is easier. Take a look: OpenOffice.org binary, Mozila binary (you can also download their sources, but it's hard to compile them, so most people choose binary) - they work in all distros. It's the same with games (especially the commercial ones).
 
Old 12-31-2003, 03:35 PM   #3
duerra
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Alright, so is it difficult then? If not, then why do companies, such as the company that makes my SCSI controller, compile separate sources, and lable them for specific distributions, instead of making them standard for all distributions?

Also, after a couple years or so, when I've done all my upgrades and everything manually for all these files (there's no need to "upgrade" Linux officially if you keep up with your updates, correct?), have upgraded kernels, etc., it basically eliminates almost all trade of what distribution you use, does it not? So at that point, how do you know what distribution to download packages for??

Sorry... some of this is just a bit confusing for me still. I guess I'm under the impression that a Linux distro is basically just an installer that installs a kernel and a group of selected packages - and then maybe some configuration utilities depending on your distribution. Somebody please correct that thought process if it is misguided or wrong. This is what makes me wonder why there has to be separately compiled sources for different distributions.
 
Old 12-31-2003, 03:51 PM   #4
Mara
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Quote:
Originally posted by duerra
Alright, so is it difficult then? If not, then why do companies, such as the company that makes my SCSI controller, compile separate sources, and lable them for specific distributions, instead of making them standard for all distributions?
It *looks* that it's easier to make distro-specific package (there are tools that can do it for you, fast and simple). But...

Quote:
Also, after a couple years or so, when I've done all my upgrades and everything manually for all these files (there's no need to "upgrade" Linux officially if you keep up with your updates, correct?), have upgraded kernels, etc., it basically eliminates almost all trade of what distribution you use, does it not? So at that point, how do you know what distribution to download packages for??
..the issue you mentioned comes (especially important for drivers). On distro can have many kernels (orginal and upgraded versions, more than 10 different versions possible, usually). So then the driver made for distro X version Y may not work after upgrade.
Note that companies started to release Linux drivers not very long ago - two-three years ago maximum, in most cases. That's why they must learn about that fact. In general, it's easier to keep one package with drivers for all distros, even when it's easier to produce a package for a specific distro.

Quote:
Sorry... some of this is just a bit confusing for me still. I guess I'm under the impression that a Linux distro is basically just an installer that installs a kernel and a group of selected packages - and then maybe some configuration utilities depending on your distribution. Somebody please correct that thought process if it is misguided or wrong. This is what makes me wonder why there has to be separately compiled sources for different distributions.
You're generally right. But it's not all. When you get source of kernel from distro A and distro B and compare them, they won't be the same, even if it's the same version. That's because distro vendors appy patches (modifications). There are different sets of patches (hundreds available). Plus the kernels are compiled with different versions of a compiler. That's the reason why the module for distro A doesn't always work with distro B. It's the same with other programs - not all of them are patched, but many do.
 
Old 12-31-2003, 04:26 PM   #5
duerra
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Alright, so do you see this affecting Linux potential for slowly unmounting the Redmond grip on the computer industry? Or do you think that it's not really that significant, and that programmers simply need to be sure to adapt to subtle differences accordingly?
 
Old 01-01-2004, 03:55 PM   #6
Mara
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It's hard to say. Closed drivers for Linux are quite new invention so it's hard to say where it is going. There are not many good examples how to do this (and that providing a driver for all distros is a good idea). I think it'll come.
 
  


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